Roddy Williams – The Atheist Poet



October 2011


my new hat (2011)

i’ve bought a new hat
wide and black as the night
with a coat to help anchor
the brim to the head.

i can see it from here
broad and felt as an ironed crow
bred to perch on my brow
and croak omens to kings.

it’s not what i’m used to
this hat thing. this hat thing
is loaded with time.
it’s an antique device

that will sepia my head
to the past, not let go.

things left unsaid (2011)

most days she leaves an offering
a slim white shape beside the bus stop bin
the filter end is how i know it’s her
the blood red seal around the tip
where lips have pressed their
signature around, a circle of attraction.
it flashes like a stop sign from the ground.
sometimes there’s just a butt
like a borrowers tampon,
sometimes almost the whole thing
as if this is some length-based cypher
or the sequential columns of a bar-graph
recording the percentages of
an unknowable aspect of her morning.

Real Gone (2011)

I never saw the need for plastic flowers
but there is one. People somewhere find a
use for solid roses and carnations.
There’s a drive I think within us to replace
what’s real with fabricated copies. Look
at fruit. Why would you need a plastic apple
ever? ‘It’s neither use nor ornament.’
as my Grandma said about my brother’s
fake fur moonboots. Philip K Dick knew that
our world is layered with the less than real
as if a facia had been laid down
over the world replacing all of us.
‘You want to read real booksh,’ said my Grandma
as the steradent frothed around her teeth.

sausage sandwich (2011)

the first corner bite
is like a sudden postcard from home
scribbled in grease and crust

spreading the handwriting
out into my mouth. the taste
is almost the same

my tongue probes blind for
that missing element. the signature.
the sausage rosebud.

Crewe to Wrexham (2011)

Beyond the border stand the fortresses
grown from each mountain perch with granite seed.
The weather’s worn them to extensions, rough
Constable sketches of their firstborn youth.
Today they clampsleep, molared to the mount,
sugarsoaped of neighbours’ blood and warpaint.
Below, trees yearn to draw some truth or leaves;
pencil fingers scrabbling at the grey.
Now ranges rise embossed to see who’s here,
mist-toned into a page of Dulux shades.
This sunset over fatherland rouses
as we rattle on deeper into dusk,
farther than the Romans ever came
to hills of ‘Bongo Jazz’ and ‘Desert Peach’.

apparition (2011)

white city tube station
that’s where I started from.
greenford by central line
a bus down to southall
I smoked a small spliff in
the park and drank cider,
watched the young indians
cricketing fiercely and
then an old lover called.


suddenly there he was
like he walked out of
a pantomime smoke bomb,
turbaned, good-looking and
stroking his beard.

life’s weird.

Adoption (2011)

I’ve bought another camera
‘Like Madonna and the orphans,’ said my beloved
not without some justification.
This latest one is adopted, having been
used, abandoned and
trafficked by internet camera slavers.

What would Angelina call hers?
Something spiritual I think

‘Wind’? ‘Mango’? ‘Espresso’? ‘Persil’?

It’s due to arrive tomorrow.
I should have thought of this earlier.

‘Carapace’? ‘Papaya’? ‘ Bambi’? ‘ Geoff’?

The Press might lie in wait.
They’re bound to ask me what
I’m calling it.

‘Twix’? ‘ Aero’? ‘ Anaglypta’? ‘ Pumice’?

February 2011

I hold you out at my arm and thumb length
the way a long-sighted man might inspect
a business card or a passport photograph
but not because I wish to check these things.
You are a replacement angel I think
sent by social services in grey times.

Somehow you alter my chosen depth of field
and step closer, pushing my elbow down.
Sometimes the moon moves closer to the earth.
There is disruption, oceans rock like old
people in chairs. Waves beat like flat wet hearts
and all our atoms yearn, lean, just slightly.

Don’t come closer, angel. The tide is high.
Stay there. Shed tears of light, my satellite.

every picture (2011)

it’s hanging in your parents’ house
this one thing that made you happy
brought us closer
taught us much
about each other,
things that if i’d known
I would have scribbled
in a corner
of the scene.

it should be there, nestling between
the brushmarks and the
broad slabs of white on your shirt;
the story that
this picture should tell.

one day I may whisper these colours
in your ear
like the caress of a brush
just the right shade
to make things clear